NEW CASTLE — A New Castle woman injured by an alleged drugged driver is raising concerns about a proposed plea agreement that would allow the suspect to stay out of jail or prison.
Peggy Claar of New Castle has undergone 15 surgeries in four years and uses a cane to walk.
She considers it a miracle that she can walk at all given what happened on February 28, 2018.
“I was driving to the bank, and she was just right there,” said Claar. “Boom boom boom. That fast. I didn’t see her coming, so I had no time to react.”
Claar’s attorneys obtained crash scene photos from the New Castle Police Department showing her smashed up red car.
“The paramedics said they had never seen anything that violent that someone actually lived through,” said Claar.
Henry County prosecutors say Carol Wickes of New Castle was under the influence of prescription drugs when she crashed into Claar’s car.
A toxicology report shows Wickes had two drugs in her system, Zolpidem, a sedative found in Ambien, and Cyclobenzaprine, a muscle relaxant.
Drugged driving is a growing problem on Central Indiana, WRTV Investigates found.
Henry County prosecutors charged Wickes with four crimes:
- Causing Serious Bodily Injury when Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated
- Public Intoxication
- Refusal to Submit to Breath or Chemical Test
- Driving Left of Center
The case has been pending for four years until a proposed plea agreement was filed on November 4, 2022.
The agreement would allow Wickes to avoid jail or prison time.
If approved by the court, Wickes would serve probation including 1 year and 3 months of electronic home detention.
“I think it's a shame,” said Claar. “If she isn't made to do any jail time, she's just going to turn around and do it again."
As part of the agreement signed by Wickes, her driver’s license would be suspended for 3.5 years.
Wickes would plead guilty to Count One; Causing Serious Bodily Injury when Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated, and prosecutors would dismiss the remaining charges.
WRTV Investigates did some checking and found Causing Serious Bodily Injury when Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated, a Level 6 felony, carries a maximum penalty of 2.5 years behind bars.
“It sends the message that, ‘hey do whatever you want’,” said Claar. “You can get out of it."
Claar wrote a letter to the judge this week asking him to reject the plea agreement.
"I'm not a vindictive person who is angry,” said Claar. “My concern is her turning around and doing this to somebody else."
Claar’s letter to the judge includes Facebook posts as exhibits, appearing to show Carol Wickes posting about her Florida vacation on June 22, 2018.
“7 days and we leave for Florida!!” read the post. “O can’t wait!!”
Claar said at the time of the post, she couldn’t walk.
"It didn't feel right that I was in bed in a nursing home, and she was living it up,” said Claar. “I just felt like she should have had some remorse."
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Carol Wickes on Dec. 19 at 8:30 am.
Joe Bergacs, Henry County Prosecutor, declined to comment citing ethical rules that prevent him from commenting on a pending case.
WRTV Investigates also reached out to Wickes and her attorney, but they have not responded.
Peggy Claar has filed a civil lawsuit against Carol Wickes and other parties, and the lawsuit is still pending.
“Peggy suffered a tremendous loss, both physically and mentally,” said her attorney Rob King of Indianapolis. “She’s lost years of her life. And the civil justice is designed to try to even that out.”
The lawsuit accuses Wickes of negligence.
“Peggy has suffered tremendously and we’re trying to be supportive and get justice for Peggy,” said King.